Double Jeopardy (1999 film)

Double Jeopardy is a 1999 American neo noir adventure crime thriller film directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, and Bruce Greenwood. The film is about a woman wrongfully imprisoned for murder who, while eluding her parole officer, tracks down her husband who had framed her.

Double Jeopardy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBruce Beresford
Produced byLeonard Goldberg
Written byDavid Weisberg
Douglas Cook
Music byNormand Corbeil
CinematographyPeter James
Edited byMark Warner
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • September 24, 1999 (1999-09-24)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$40 million
Box office$177 million


Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) and her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood) are wealthy residents of Whidbey Island, Washington. With her best friend, Angela Green (Annabeth Gish) offering to look after her 4-year-old son, Matty (Benjamin Weir), Libby and Nick go off sailing for the weekend on their yacht. After a session of love making, Libby falls asleep. She wakes to find her husband missing and blood all over her hands, clothes, legs, and the boat's floors. A Coast Guard vessel appears and Libby is spotted holding a bloody knife she found lying on the deck.

Even with Nick's body unaccounted for, Libby is arrested, humiliated in the media, tried, and convicted of her husband's murder. Libby asks Angela to look after Matty for the duration of her prison sentence. At first, Angela brings Matty to see Libby in prison, but after a while, these visits cease and she disappears. Libby uses search skills and the ability to deceive people to track Angela to her phone in San Francisco. She calls Angela and speaks with Matty. Libby hears a door open in the background, then Matty exclaims, "Daddy!" right before the line goes dead. Libby realizes that Nick possibly faked his death and framed her, leaving Matty as the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy, as people convicted for murder are not allowed to collect the life insurance on their victims.

After unsuccessfully attempting to get investigative help, she is told by a fellow inmate named Margaret (Roma Maffia) that if she were to get paroled for good behavior, she could kill Nick with impunity due to the Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. She spends the next six years in prison building up her body and committing herself to finding Matty.

Libby is paroled after six years and begins searching for Nick and Matty, while living in a halfway house under the close supervision of parole officer Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones). Lehman is a very tough officer. He is a former law professor whose wife and daughter left him after the family was in a car accident with him driving under the influence of alcohol. Libby violates her curfew and is caught breaking into Matty's school on Whidbey Island to try to get Angela's records. However, as Lehman is delivering Libby back to prison via a car ferry, he handcuffs her to the car door handle, and goes for a drink. He leaves the keys and Libby drives the car back and forth trying to knock off the handcuffs. Lehman returns; they struggle and the car goes overboard. He uncuffs her underwater. Libby then knocks out Lehman and swims to shore while he is rescued by ferry personnel. She goes to her family farm where her mother gives her cash to enable her to search for her husband and child.

Libby discovers that Angela has recently died in Colorado in a home gas explosion, which looks like an accident staged by Nick. Then Libby recognizes a Wassily Kandinsky painting in a newspaper photo. Tracing it through an art dealer's database (which nearly again allows her capture by Lehman) leads her to New Orleans, where she finds Nick running a luxury hotel under an assumed name, Jonathan Devereaux.

Libby confronts Nick after making a winning bid of $10,000 on him at a bachelor's auction during a fund raising party hosted at his hotel. She demands he return Matty in exchange for her silence about his real identity, while he claimed that he faked his death to collect insurance as his original business was going under. Their parley is cut short when Lehman shows up at the hotel party to warn Nick that his wife is a fugitive. In the French Quarter, Libby is later tipped off by a bartender who recognizes her from a wanted poster but lets her escape the police as no reward is offered.

Nick agrees to bring Matty to a meeting in Lafayette Cemetery No. 3. There he uses a decoy boy to distract Libby, knocks her unconscious, and locks her in a casket inside a mausoleum. Using a handgun she had snatched from Lehman, Libby manages to shoot the hinges off the lid of the casket and escape the mausoleum by throwing a flower vase through a stained-glass window.

While tracking Libby in New Orleans, Lehman himself becomes suspicious of Nick's death and begins to believe Libby's story, based on the clues uncovered in his search. He finds a picture of a different Nicholas Parsons when searching the Washington State DMV records to prove his suspicions, and later confirms them when he uncovers six DMV records under that name, including Nick's DMV application and photograph. After intercepting and capturing Libby later in the city as she makes her way to Nick's hotel, the two end up teaming up.

Lehman visits Nick in his office under the pretense of asking for money to keep his identity secret. He records a remark by Nick that he had murdered his wife, the only witness to his true past, and then Libby enters, holding Nick at gunpoint. Nick is given a choice of surrendering to the authorities or getting shot by his vengeful wife, who he believes would go free because of double jeopardy. Nick pulls out a hidden gun, shoots Lehman, and fires at Libby, but Lehman manages to bring him down before he can kill her. Nick gets the upper hand in the scuffle, but Libby shoots him dead.

Lehman promises to help Libby get fully pardoned, and together they travel to Matty's boarding school in Georgia. Matty (Spencer Treat Clark), now eleven years old, recognizes his mother, and they embrace with Lehman watching them.


Production notes

After Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan and Brooke Shields all declined the role, Jodie Foster was attached to star in the film as Libby Parsons and Bruce Beresford met with her several times about the script:

She said to me once, when we were having . . .not an argument, we had different points of view over something, and she said, 'We'll have to do it my way, I'm afraid.' And I said, 'Why, Jodie?' And she said, 'Because I'm so intelligent. I'm such an intelligent person that there is no point in disagreeing with me because I'm always right.' I thought she was joking, but she wasn't! [laughs] She had this extraordinary opinion of her own IQ.[2]

However, Foster then became pregnant so Ashley Judd stepped in. Greg Kinnear was offered the part of Nick Parsons, but he passed and Bruce Greenwood eventually took over. According to Beresford, Robert Benton did an uncredited ten-day rewrite shortly before production began.

The song the band plays at the funeral in the cemetery scene is the American folksong, "St. James Infirmary Blues."

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states plainly: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb . . . ."[3] The four essential protections included are prohibitions against, for the same offense: retrial after an acquittal; after a conviction; or after certain mistrials; and multiple punishment. The Double Jeopardy Clause has no bearing on separate crimes of the same nature. Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz criticized the movie for allegedly misrepresenting the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment.[4] "There are two separate incidents," Dershowitz claims. "She was falsely accused the first time. And maybe she can sue for that or get some credit. But then she committed an entirely separate, or at least planned to commit, an entirely separate crime the second time. And there's just no defense of double jeopardy for doing it the second time."

However, regardless of the accuracy of the movie's interpretation of the double jeopardy clause, Libby's action would be seen as a parole violation, returning her to prison for the remainder of her sentence. Also, since Nick was about to kill her and Lehman it is likely Libby's action would have been covered by her right of self-defense.


The film received mixed to generally negative reviews. It is rated 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, as its "consensus" states: "A talented cast fails to save this unremarkable thriller." Some noted that Jones portrayed a watered-down version of his character from The Fugitive.[5] Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, indicating a lukewarm reception.[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

However, some critics reacted to this film with positive reviews. Leonard Maltin gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it "slick entertainment".[8] Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the film is a "well-acted diversion, directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) with an intelligent grasp of the moment-to-moment emotion".[9] For her performance in the film Ashley Judd won Favorite Actress at the 6th Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.[10]


Award Category Subject Result
MTV Movie Award Best Female Performance Ashley Judd Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actress - Suspense Won
Favorite Actor - Suspense Tommy Lee Jones Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Suspense Bruce Greenwood Nominated

Box office

The film was a box office success, spending three weeks as the No. 1 film, and grossing $116 million domestically and $61 million overseas.[11]

VHS and DVD release

Double Jeopardy was released on VHS and DVD by Paramount Home Video on February 22, 2000. The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and its original theatrical trailer. It is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen format.

See also


  1. "Double Jeopardy (EN)". Lumiere. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  2. Andrew L. Urban, BERESFORD, BRUCE : DOUBLE JEOPARDY, Urban Cinesfile accessed 11 November 2012
  3. Harper, Timothy (October 2, 2007). The Complete Idiot's Guide to the U.S. Constitution. Penguin Group. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-59257-627-2. However, the Fifth Amendment contains several other important provisions for protecting your rights. It is the source of the double jeopardy doctrine, which prevents authorities from trying a person twice for the same crime…
  4. "Alan Dershowitz Discusses Double Jeopardy Clause in Fifth Amendment". October 5, 1999.
  5. Double Jeopardy. Rotten Tomatoes.
  6. Ebert, Roger. Double Jeopardy. Sep. 24. 1999.
  7. "CinemaScore".
  8. Leonard Maltin; Luke Sader; Mike Clark (2008). Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. Penguin Group. p. 374. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9.
  9. LaSalle, Mick. Criminally Good. San Francisco Chronicle. September 24, 1999
  10. "Blockbuster Entertainment Award winners". Variety. May 9, 2000. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  11. Double Jeopardy. Box Office Mojo.
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